(Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canadá 1986)
Dentro del panorama de la literatura canadiense, Orrie Walls se instala en una narrativa que expone elementos de la vida campestre y familiar de Canadá.
“Grandpa?” inquired little Alita, her sky blue eyes – like the clear open summer sky without a single cloud to be seen for miles—made large by her black curly hair, as she climbed into her large single bed.
“Yes my little Alita, what is it?” His large callused hands brought up his grand-daughter’s cover up close and tight. The blanket had a large hand stitched picture of horses running through water on that her grandma had made for her last Christmas.
“Can you tell me a story?”
“A story. What kind of story do you want to hear?”
“The one how you met Grandma. I think it’s romantic.”
Even though Alita was now ten years old, she still liked having Grandpa tell her stories. To her, her grandfather was the best story teller in the world, and it was only in the summer time when her parents came out to the country did she have the chance to hear them. Alita tried her best to put on the most innocent of faces as though to plead and guilt her grandfather into submission. The old farmer chuckled and pulled the desk chair beside the bed. He had made the chair for his daughter at one time when she was younger, in fact the room that Alita considered her bedroom while she was visiting her grandparents was her mother’s old room. Her grandfather had made most of the furniture and the house a long time ago when their old house burnt down. Memories, pride and care was in every aspect of the farm and the little farm house.
“When I was but a young lad of 17 years, your great grandfather on grandma’s side put an ad in the local newspaper stating that he needed help on the farm. The ad read: Help needed on the farm. Somebody with a truck and two strong arms not scared of dirt and willin’ to work till the sun goes down. Fifteen dollars a day plus food and board.
I thought I was in luck. I just finished school and needed to make some money for college. I pulled up in my own F-150 and told your great grandpa, I’m your man. I could start right now. We shook hands and the old man started listen off things that needed to get done.”
“The fence needs fixin’, the apples and peaches need a pickin’, and the cows need bringin round for the evening.” your great grandpa said.
“What did you look like?” asked Alita. She always had questions. And her mom always told her it was the best way to learn.
“I was tall, about 6’3” and 230 pounds. I was wearing a pair of blue jeans that were new, but sure didn’t look like it when the day was done—a cotton button shirt and a white undershirt. My hands were soft then, like all school boys that don’t do much work until they’re out of school. I had more hair then too.” He joked pointing to his thinning salt and pepper hair which caused Alita to giggle and reply with a sympathetic, “Poor grandma.”
“Wavy hair, not curly like yours and grandmas, but you do have my eyes, blue as the sky.”
Alita smiled. She liked being included in the story even if it was only in the description. “So what happened? When did you meet grand…” she yawned and then continued, “Meet grandma?”
The old man just smiled back and continued. “I was haulin hay, feedin the horses, cows and hogs. The sun glared down on your grandpa like an evil tyrant maken me sweat like a dog. In mid-day when it was hottest I would take a quick swim in the creek near the field. The water was cool and refreshing to my sun dried skin. Then it was back ta work in that heat all over again. The summer was so hot it had me cussin’ out loud, and thinkin’ bout quitin’. Lookin’ back now I’m sure glad I didn’t, cuz just when I thought it couldn’t get no hotter and the days no longer—I was cutting the hay fields in the old tractor when I caught a glimpse of the farmer’s daughter. She was just gettin’ home from da city. Her skin was all tanned up and very pretty. When her eyes met mine I thought, I sure love my job.”
“What did grandma look like? Was she like me, only taller?” Alita sat up a little more in the bed so that she could look at herself in the mirror as her grandpa spoke of her grandma’s appearance she could imagine herself as a beautiful older girl.
“The French and all their romantic words wouldn’t be able ta describe how beautiful your grandma looked ta me. Her ebony tan brown skin, her tight dark curly hair cascading like a chocolate waterfall down her face, over her shoulders to the mid of her back, and her green eyes made me think that is what God made angels look like. She was wearn’ a pair of blue jeans and a red flannel shirt. A real wild flower…”
“Did you kiss her when you first met her? Did her heel pop like in all those movies?” Alita fired one question after another.
Her grandpa made a face as if he was hurt and responded, “You want me to tell ya the story or grandma?” Alita’s response was to quickly close her lips tight and give a rapid nod to indicate to her grandpa that she would let him continue the story.
“Well as the days got shorter, the sun would stretch across the sky as if stretching its arms and yawning before sinking into its place of rest, our talks got longer. And yes we kissed, though I don’t know nothing about any heel popin, and as time progressed the kisses got sweeter and our feelings for each other got stronger. After work and dinner we would hop into my truck and drive ta The Point overlooking the valley and the farm to watch the sun set and get all tangled up…er that is get, I mean… Ah…Well we would ‘talk’ and shared each other’s company for hours. And we did this every chance we got.”
Alita giggled at her grandpa’s sudden awkwardness in the storytelling. Even though she was only ten years of age she knew they did more than just talked. Her body squirmed beneath the bed covers as her mind tried to absorb all the romantic nights her grandpa and grandma had. Thinking what she had seen in movies and read in stories to piece together what really happened on those nights. But she remained quiet and tried her best to remain alert, taking a deep breath and letting out a quiet dreamy sigh. While listening Alita tried to picture a prince like her grandfather that would someday sweep her way.
“We were at down by the river all night long, and ah… talkin and watchin the stars and dreamin dreams together. We stayed up all night and as the sun came up I was sneakin’ her home and then draggin’ my butt to work. I would work all day with the smell of her perfume on my shirt. Plown’ the fields on the tractor while she was on my mind, I would think of her from dawn to dinner time. As each day grew hotter I realized I had fallen in love with the farmer’s daughter. ”
Grandpa spoke of how he had proposed to her near the fall by writing the question in the hay field in giant letters and brought her grandma to The Point that evening with a truck bed full of wild flowers, a bottle of wine and a ring. The ring was made of white-gold and band looks as though two twin strands of wheat woven together, symbolizing the love they share, and each wheat grain has a small diamond, fourteen in total. Alita knew the ring well because she always asked her grandma if she could wear it. Alita’s eyes were growing heavy as she slumped down further under the bed covers her eyes flickered like candles trying to stay alight.
“The ring and the wedding cost me my summer wages, so I never went back to school. We got married in the spring. I decided that being a farmer while lovin’ a farm girl… well there ain’t no better life for me. Thant’s why I’m still haulin’ hay and feedin’ the hogs while that summer sun has me sweatin’ like an old dog. I still stop by the creek to cool off, and every day your grandma brings me outta glass of her sweet ice tea.”
The grandfather stopped, stood up and pulled the cover sheets close up to his granddaughter’s chin. With his farm callused hands he swept a strand of hair from her for head and kissed her forehead. Before he turned off the light he finished his tale.
“And still to this day. I’ll be on the tractor and she’s on my mind and I just can’t wait till its quitin’ time. And when I think these summers can’t get no hotter I come home to the farmer’s daughter.”